DJ Paulette Interview: "It's about time I talked about these things"

In her first book, Welcome to the Club, DJ Paulette tackles the highs, lows and lessons of a thirty-year music career while seeking to give justice to the women who keep the beat going. Read what she had to say below!

Thomas Hirst

Last updated: 22nd Jan 2024

“Icon. Trailblazer. Activist. Warrior.” 

These are the words used by the acclaimed Maxine Peake in the inside of DJ Paulette's new book, Welcome to the Club. With 30 years in the game, smashing through every door, and having an absolute blast along the way, DJ Paulette is one of the dance music scene's true icons and champions.

In Welcome to the Club, Paulette shares the highs, lows and lessons of a thirty-year music career, with help from some famous friends. Part personal account, part call to arms, the book exposes the exclusivity of the music industry while seeking to do justice to the often invisible women who keep the beat going.

She tells her story, offering a remarkable view of the music industry from a Black woman's perspective. Behind the core values of peace, love, unity and respect, dance music is a world of exclusion, misogyny, racism and classism. But, as Paulette reveals, it is also a space bursting at the seams with powerful women.

An insightful and raucous romp through dance music's rise; a searingly witty and painstakingly honest account of the scene and her place in it; and a steadfast questioning of the exclusivity and inequality that is still prevalent in the industry quick to paint itself as the opposite; Welcome To The Club is an essential read for any dance music devotee. 

With the book soon to be released, we caught up with DJ Paulette to chat all about it. Scroll down and read what she had to say!

DJ Paulette is also doing a book launch party at HOME in Manchester on Thursday 25th January 2024, which will see her and Jamz Supernova in a live Q&A on the book, followed by a book signing and meet and greet. Click the link to book tickets or scroll to the bottom of this page for more information!  



Hiya Paulette, how are we doing today? 

"Yeah, I’ve been good. I had a mad plant-caring moment around lunchtime, because one of my plants, like the oldest plant in the house, had just decided to die on me. It's this big philodendron and I’ve just been watching the leaves dropping off. 

"So I had to take it outside and that was a big operation, but I've done that. So I feel like I've achieved today.

"Other than that, I've just been in back to back to back interviews so a lot is going on. I'm happy about it, don't get me wrong, very happy about it, but it's a lot of talking. However, I'm glad about it, because it's about time I talked about these things."



It’s a good thing to be talking about though, no? Your first book?

"Yeah, and it's something that I haven't talked about too, and this is why the book has been written; because there are things I've needed to say that I haven't said for years. 

"In 30 years of DJing, I've amassed these stories. Good, bad, ugly, indifferent, funny, and I needed to get them out. It's like being a cat with a massive fur ball."


I suppose that's been quite cathartic as well, then, hasn't it?

"Totally. It's great getting all that fur out of my belly, but that wasn't the main motivation for writing the book.

"I think so many people think you have to have had this massive celebrity lifestyle, or massive contribution to a culture or industry to matter or to inspire other people. 

"But, having been a history student, it's always been in my head that history is happening to everybody, all the time. 

"So when people went over to Ibiza and had their revelatory moment, it wasn't only happening there. Something was happening in Manchester at the same time, and at the same time as it was happening in Manchester, it was happening in New York, and in France, and all over. 

"There were lots of stories, but for some reason, we only got fed one version of history. So in the book, I wanted to make a point of saying there were way more stories that contributed to this culture than just that one. The one we’ve been fed is relevant, but so are all of these."


So you wanted to establish a more holistic view of the rave scene and the people who were a part of it that haven't been given their fair dues?

"Totally. If we're going to get a full idea of what that history and culture is and was, who the players were, who created this thing, and who is still moving this forward, then we need to look outside of that one story we all know. 

"I wanted to make the connection and say that these things that we have now like streaming started here and those people aren't getting the props for it. So I wanted to give a little bit of sugar to the people that I knew who had started it.

"I wanted to make those connections because when you make those connections, the story gets stronger, and it starts to make more sense. It also then should inspire people to think ‘yeah we can do this for ourselves, we can do that thing that no one's ever done before, we can make mistakes and it could develop into a really beautiful idea, or maybe it won't, but we can try because nothing wrong in trying.’ 

"It's interesting to me to tell more of all the stories rather than concentrate on just telling one. That did present a challenge though. As I had to tell a story about me without entirely telling a story about me. So just told it about all the people that I work with instead."


Image: DJ Paulette on Facebook

One of the things I loved about it as well, is how it isn’t just all about your past, and the culture's past, you knit everything together in a way that makes it a book for the next generation too, giving those pushing it forward today their dues also. 

"Yeah, I wanted it to be up to date as I think it's really easy to get locked into the nostalgia of how we used to live and I couldn't care less about nostalgia. 

"It's nice and everything, but I'm still alive.

"I just think it's dangerous to get sucked into how we used to live and not recognise and not give any sort of credit to the people that are keeping it turning now and that are inspiring people now. 

"That thing that we did 30 years ago, they are doing it now, and in 30 years, those are the people that I want people to say they were in this book.  

"It’s a big reason why I made the Fierce Future Forces section. So people can look back and say, yeah, she said that Sherelle was going to be massive, she said that I. Jordan was gonna be massive, she said that Nia Archives was going to be a megastar. 

"And it's been really interesting to me, because the book was finished back in 2022, and every name on that list has all blown up since then. So I'm like, yeah, I made the right call. We all made the right call on the people that are on this list. This book is a crystallising moment in time."


Delving a bit deeper into the book, one of the things I particularly loved was the way you structured it with the seven chapters. Not so much chronologically, but more around these seven ideas. It makes a really good reading and is nothing like some of those tired “rock and roll”-centric stories that can often be written. Could you kind of delve a bit into those chapters and why you chose each theme?

"Yeah thank you for that So the first chapter, In The Beginning, I used to answer questions like who made me? What made me do it? Why did I do it? What was my interest?

"I didn’t start right at the beginning, I just started at the beginning of my DJ career.

"I wanted to establish who I was, how I formed this DJ Paulette person, and how she popped out by accident and refused to go away; which is nice because she’s been great company. 

"The second chapter which is Finders Keepers, is all about the jobs that I found or the jobs that found me. I think I wrote that as the last line. The job that I never interviewed for and never looked for, was the one I then went on to do for the rest of my life. 

"Finders keepers losers weepers. 

"But I had to talk about it in terms of once I got into the work of it, what did I find? What different avenues did I go down? 

"So things like when I was in London and started working for the Music Industry for record labels, doing the PR for Talking Loud and Manifesto Records and Def Jam and Fontana; My residency at the Zap Club in Brighton, where Carl Cox had the Friday and I had the Saturday; I just landed all the time."


Yeah, it was a part of your story that I wasn't as aware of, you were really in there with some big names of the time,  during the crux of Dance music really starting to break through into the mainstream. What was all that like?

"Yeah, it was just at that time when dance music was exploding. Then, for Talking Loud, in my lap were these new artists who were making new albums that were going to change the game. 

"People like Roni Size & Reprazent, 4Hero, Louie Vega and Kenny Dope; and, just to contextualise it, these are records and this is music that was not getting any radio play.

"In 2024, we can hear a Nia Archives on daytime radio, we can hear Drum & Bass on daytime radio. But the reason we can hear those is because, in 1996/97, Talking Loud put out Roni Size & Reprazent, and 4Hero, and London Records put out Goldie's album and those three albums together, along with a few others, broke the mould made it all possible 

"I had the honour and the luck of being able to work on these projects in such a way that they were getting coverage in magazines and newspapers they wouldn't previously. The Guardian, The Observer, and The Times were writing about Roni Size; it was just incredible and I was lucky to help put it there."



Image: Dan Medhurst // Glastonbury 23

Yeah, for sure. Moving on to the next chapter, FAQs (Female Asked Questions), it's my favourite chapter in the book, could you tell us a bit about how you went about putting that together?

"Good. I'm glad you like that chapter. It's the key chapter for me. And I had to fight many battles to keep that shape because it's a women's story.

"With every female DJ that I've talked to, the question, “Is it difficult being a female DJ?” just really rankles, it just makes all the hairs on the back of your neck stick up because it’s that struggle of being constantly gendered.

"But, the gendering of the job has got more and more pronounced the longer it's gone and, curiously, when I started DJing it wasn't even gendered in that way. DJing wasn't a job that was even respected so people didn't look at it in the way that they look at it now.

"It’s a bit of a head scratch really because we do the same job, we use the same equipment, and I don't think digital files weigh that much so we're not doing any heavy lifting here. 

"Let's face it, I think a lot of male DJs have got softer hands than I have. I think I probably do more manual work than most because I'm not scared of the vacuum. I don't have cleaners. 

"It's just that irritation that even in this big year 2024 there people should make that differentiation between how a male DJ does his job and how a female DJ does their job.

"So I just really wanted to investigate that, but not investigate it in a way that I was going to be pointing the finger and whinging, I don’t consider myself a victim and I’m not blaming anyone for it.

"I wanted to keep it a bit more academic and I wanted to bring in a few more voices. So it's not just me banging on. 

"But certain things need to be said, particularly when we've got this culture of someone like Piers Morgan going hard against Madonna saying she's too old and she should give up. Why should she Piers? You're probably the same age. Should you give up?"


I 100% agree, it especially rings true when you see men like Paul McCartney or Elton John headlining Glastonbury and no one batting an eyelid.


"They're not stopping. Why is no one saying, hey Macca, your jowls are looking a bit wobbly, I think you should sack it. Everyone's encouraging them to go on and do better. But for women, from the day you hit 40, people or the culture want you to stop working

"So, this chapter in the book, it’s me punching a hole through that and saying, no, we don't have to stop, because if they don’t, why do we?"


Image: Danny Sargent // Hacienda 2 WHP Dec 23

It’s such a shame that it’s still this way, especially with how the modern music industry can often paint itself with the brush of its counter-cultural past, but under the surface has morphed into something very different.

"For sure, it’s worrying. The way nightclubs started was to go against that. It was about peace, love, unity, respect. We were going against the patriarchy, what the system, what the man said we were supposed to do. 

"Then in 2024, it started to mirror those very systems we were trying to buck against in the beginning. 

"So I just kind of want people to open their eyes a little bit more about it and see that we're kind of slipping into this complacency and comfort that benefits certain people and genders and races over others. 

"We just have to slam the brakes on that a little bit and say, you know, diversity, inclusion, and equality is a good thing. We do this thing as a community, and if we draw in other experiences, we can do way better things when we start to understand why lots of other people go to this club and not just concentrate on one particular type.

"So yeah, that's why that chapter was really important and I fought to keep the structure of it, as there was a red line through half of it at one point. I was like, no, this isn't happening. This book is all about hidden histories, and if you redline this chapter, you're doing exactly what this book is trying not to do. After that, it all went back in."


Another thing that it's particularly prevalent in that chapter, but also throughout the book, is just your constant championing of the women that have been so influential to dance music. Whether it be like Lucy Scher, Marcia Carr, Caroline Prothero, or more contemporarily with Jaguar, Annie Mac, or Jamz Supernova. It must feel good to get all of those contributions down in writing.

"Yeah, it really does. 

"Harold Heath said to me this week that it's the first time it's been done. Every other book (mostly written by men) about the music industry, about the electronic dance music industry, has failed to mention these people.

"Books like Ladies Of The House didn't have The Blessed Madonna in it, didn't have Annie Mac in it. In Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, Jeannie Hopper wasn't mentioned. There were really obvious stories that should be in those books that weren’t.

"By including these people, I’m putting them in a book that is going into every library so when somebody wants to research it, this is who they're going to find.

"And I might not have been able to mention everybody, but I've mentioned as many people as I possibly can. I'm just dragging as many people as possible with me. I just wanted to tell those stories."


Image: Danny Sargent // Boogietown September 23

One of the best things about the book, for me, is while you're telling all these stories and giving credit to all these people, you still make it digestible and just cut to the bone. It makes it effortlessly readable, and with the humour you’ve injected too, it gets the tone spot on and avoids the bogging down in specifics that such accounts can often fall victim to. 

"Thank you.

"I am a terrible reader, I buy loads of books and the ones that I find the most engaging are the ones that have got pace, and I like books that don't bog me down in the science or the politics of it. They tell the story, but they don't have me reading with the Oxford English Dictionary at the side.

"I used to be a copywriter, and there's this thing where you should only talk about bricks, bats and houses. Don't use longer words. Just keep it simple, keep it short and sweet. 

"So I tried, in writing the book, to tell the story as simply as possible and as interestingly as possible, and talk about some complex themes without alienating too many men, too many women, too many gays and just keeping it open to everybody, understanding every perspective, every side of the story."


It’s done well, particularly in the chapter around the pandemic, which could have easily gotten stuck in the politics of it all, the mental struggle of it all, and whilst those subjects are covered in depth, it ends up quite affirming, and heaps praise on those who rightfully deserve it. 

"That pandemic chapter, Sane As It Ever Was, was one I really wanted to write. Getting through that period, I don't know how we all did it. 

"I am very thankful for being in Manchester, surrounded by people who are real fighters, real warriors, and who have built this culture and were determined not to let it go, as that is very much my nature as well. 

"We built it because we love it. To us all, it's not just a party, all our best friends have come from this culture. We created this thing, and we're keeping it going. And we wanted to keep it going. That Hacienda live stream for United We Stream had 5 million hits.

"So, I think it's important to understand that when Rishi Sunak and the Government, when Boris, I've combed my hair with a balloon, Johnson said things like, you should retrain; that is unthinkable. It’s not a joke. 

"This thing that you think we should retrain because it's not important is contributing billions to the global economy. So, no, we're not going to retrain because this thing is a job like any other, is a business like any other, and the people that work in it should have the same rights. 

"So it was important to write that chapter and have it written in stone solidified, so that if anyone from the Government just wants to read what it takes to do this job and to go through a pandemic they can. 

"Its story hasn't been told yet from a DJ events perspective. So again, just like the FAQ's chapter, It's never been written before, it's never been tackled before. So it was significant to write those things and, you know, be political, and be a bit of a troublemaker. 

"That was my intention. Changing the world one page at a time.”


Whilst kind of being the memoir and all of this, it also feels kind of like a bit of a survival guide and mentorship. I imagine someone who would be starting within the Music Industry some of it would be invaluable. Was this something you were thinking of when you were writing it, or does it kind of just come out naturally within the pages?

"I think it comes naturally. Throughout my career, I have had a really big problem with asking for help. There were various points where I know if I'd asked for help a bit sooner, things would have been easier or people would have understood me a bit better. 

"That word ‘help’,  when you say that word, that it opens a world of wonder, a world of magic because you will be surprised how much and how many people want to help.

"If I'd had this book when I started djing, my life would have been so much easier. 

"So it is a bit of a survival guide, but I’d say it's more like TCP, cleaning the cut and helping it heal. It's taking you on that journey where you know how to do that thing ask for help or just be more self-aware."


It's been great speaking to you Paulette, just to finish off, what do you hope readers in the industry, both at the top and the bottom, take from the book?

"I hope that they see it as a very positive book, and don't see it as an attack, as I'm not complaining. I say over and over again, I’ve benefitted from this. I am very lucky. I am blessed and I am grateful. I'm not complaining about anything.

"But for me, to do more, people have to be aware of what the challenges have been, both to make my next 30 years, and everybody else's next 30 years easier. 

"This is why I talk about the pandemic, it’s why I talk about mental health, it’s why I talk about the sexism in it, because these things exist, and not just for me, but for everybody. 

"So we need to care for our community in such a way that these challenges are less, and that's what I hope people at the top take away.

"What I hope people at the bottom take away is, just to be excited to do it for themselves. I hope it makes them want to get involved, get engaged, or even argue with the book and say, no, it's not like this. It's like that. Great. So you create your world and do it in the way that you want to do it, but use it as a springboard. I just hope that it inspires those at the bottom to follow their dreams. 

"I know that sounds a bit woolly. But none of us knew how to do this in the beginning, and we all did it, and look what we created. Just do it."




Manchester University Press presents - DJ Paulette: ‘Welcome to the Club’ Book Launch

When: Thursday 25th January 2024

Where: HOME in Manchester

Join in this revelatory evening celebrating the launch of “Welcome to the Club: The Life and Lessons of a Black Woman DJ” by the legendary Manchester DJ and icon, DJ Paulette. 

DJ Paulette will be in conversation with fellow DJ, label head and radio host Jamz Supernova, with time allowed for audience questions. Following the event, there will be a book signing in the HOME foyer, where you can meet DJ Paulette and take home a signed copy of?Welcome to the Club.


Find tickets by clicking or tapping - HERE



If you want to see DJ Paulette live? Visit her artist page on Skiddle, and find all the events she will be playing at in 2024, by clicking or tapping - HERE



Check out our What's On Guide to discover even more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.